A software specialist for plant turnarounds

As oil and gas companies face increased pressure to maximise equipment efficiency, InEight has responded with software that minimises cost surprises and asset downtime. Australian Mining writes.

Although seemingly disruptive, repairs and maintenance – whether discretionary or driven by legislation – are a necessary part of any efficient oil and gas operation, and their importance can’t be underestimated.

Plant turnarounds, as they are commonly known, provide an opportunity for companies to repair, monitor and enhance equipment. If executed properly, they can yield a host of benefits, including increased productivity and enhanced safety conditions.

Conversely, a plant turnaround that’s executed poorly can carry disastrous consequences, including significant fiscal losses from the required equipment downtime.

They are, as InEight executive vice president of industry engagement Rick Deans describes them, a “critical event” for any oil and gas operation, and one that needs to be managed strategically.

Indeed, the logistical maze that confronts oil and gas companies as they prepare for a plant turnaround can seem overwhelming.

“Plant turnarounds essentially involve the owner of an asset taking their revenue and profit generating stream offline to make necessary repairs,” says Deans.

“Sometimes they will shut down an entire unit. The idea is to get the plant back up and running as soon as possible, which involves a tremendous amount of front-end planning.”

According to Deans, the process of a turnaround is analogous to servicing a car – although you may perform regular maintenance, every so often, a major overhaul is needed.

“During this time, you may not be able to use the vehicle, and unexpected issues may surface during servicing that bump up the price beyond what was anticipated.”

Such unexpected price bumps are what oil and gas companies are seeking to avoid ahead of time, before scheduled downtime takes place.

Recognising this, InEight has developed a portfolio of software solutions that assists companies in planning and executing effective and cost-efficient plant turnarounds and mitigating potential risks.

For instance, InEight’s planning, scheduling and risk tool employs artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, along with risk intelligence capabilities, to establish more realistic plans in advance of major events such as turnarounds, thereby reducing the likelihood of negative outcomes.

Drawing from a knowledge library filled with historical data from an organisation’s past projects, the tool’s AI-powered inference engine generates suggestions based on scenarios that are most likely to occur. Team members can then review this output and apply their own expertise to weigh in on the best course of action.

This powerful combination of artificial and human intelligence not only assists in executing the current project more efficiently, it also ensures better outcomes on future projects, as the selections fed back into the knowledge library help the tool grow “smarter” and generate better, more informed suggestions for future turnarounds.

“Our planning, scheduling and risk solution allows companies to preserve their existing project knowledge and serve it up again to better plan and estimate their next event,” Deans explains. “This means they can do a better job of planning, so there are fewer surprises in execution.”

Also valuable, he says, is InEight’s set of project cost management solutions, which incorporate estimating, benchmarking, budget management and forecasting capabilities. These features assist oil and gas companies in gaining a greater sense of control over critical events such as turnarounds.

InEight’s estimating tool, for instance, minimises the likelihood of unexpected costs arising during the process by allowing users to quickly and accurately project costs. It does so by standardising estimate processes using templates, cost libraries and third-party cost databases.

The ability to leverage knowledge learned from past projects to benchmark current estimated costs and productivity levels further enhances the accuracy of estimations.

These are referred to as “norms,” and allow companies to import and aggregate full histories of rates from current data sources.

“These norms allow everyone in an organisation to access the same data,” Deans says. “This eliminates the advantage that a 20-year veteran may have, as all members of an organisation have equal and shared knowledge of the data available.”

As oil and gas companies aim to get more value out of their assets, while minimising project risks, InEight’s solutions are becoming increasingly relevant in the industry, helping customers solve the age-old challenge of delivering plant turnarounds on time and on budget.

This article also appears in the November edition of Australian Mining.

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