While maintenance is a topic heavily discussed in the oil and gas field, it is important to distinguish between the different types of maintenance. In the oil and gas field, there are three main types of maintenance that could be applied in Exploration and Production (E&P) activities: reactive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and preventative maintenance.

General Overview of the E&P Projects in Egypt

Firstly, reactive maintenance often refers to the procedure that takes place when a piece of equipment or machinery is forced to ‘run to failure’; this means that the equipment will remain in operation until it becomes no longer functional. Secondly, predictive maintenance refers to the scheduled maintenance. In fact, each maintenance procedure is scheduled based on the condition of the equipment or machinery. Finally, preventative maintenance – arguably the most important of all three maintenance types – typically refers to the maintenance procedures implemented to ensure that any and all equipment or machinery are periodically checked, cleaned, and fixed to avoid any future inconveniences that could negatively impact operations.

In an industry where over 80% of oil and gas plants apply preventative maintenance schemes, it is important to ensure that those schemes are efficiently implemented. Also, when such schemes are periodically improved, the number of inconveniences is limited while the lifetime of the equipment and machinery maintained is extended.

Evolution of Maintenance Procedures in E&P

In the E&P sector, preventative maintenance is commonly applied, and has been for the longest time, as a result of learning from mistakes made from lack of maintenance or attention given to various equipment or machinery. Despite preventative maintenance being an ordinary strategy that is typically applied in most E&P companies, these strategies originated and developed exponentially over the course of the last century.

In the E&P sector, over the last century, the equipment that required maintenance typically included pneumatic switches, transmitters, valves, and pumps. At the time, the equipment was run to failure until it required replacement of a piece or the system as a whole. This method left little to no room for preventative maintenance procedures. The idea was that because the equipment at the time was simple, it was easier to replace than fix – and the cost was nearly the same. However, as equipment became more complex and costly, maintenance procedures needed to be developed.

After the industrial evolution took place, complex and more efficient technologies were created and integrated in the E&P sector to enhance the search and extraction processes. This step paved the way for the implementation of better maintenance procedures. Classical maintenance then evolved to clean fix relevant equipment and machinery with no regard to the equipment’s lifetime, reliability, or availability. In other words, maintenance would be carried out at one fixed time for all equipment, and no backup would become necessary until the equipment failed.

Later on, classical maintenance evolved to become predictive and preventative maintenance. While predictive and preventative maintenance are two of the most efficient strategies for maintenance procedures, another type of maintenance was later developed called innovative maintenance. Innovative maintenance was mainly established to respond to more advanced and sophisticated E&P processes (i.e. computer-based systems). Innovative maintenance can be categorized into two types: intelligent maintenance and condition-based predictive maintenance.

On one hand, intelligent maintenance uses data acquired from machinery or equipment to predict any failures that may occur within the system and prevent them accordingly. On the other hand, condition-based predictive maintenance covers scheduled maintenance based on the equipment’s current condition. It can be noted that the type of maintenance implemented in a company is highly dependent upon the equipment or machinery type, the relevant services, the usage frequency, and, most importantly, the company’s ability to place maintenance as a top priority.

Preventative Maintenance: A Concept

In the E&P sector, preventative maintenance is a concept that is not only acknowledged, but absolutely necessary in its application. While some companies may see preventative maintenance as a necessity for all operations, others view the strategy as a financial burden or even a complete waste of time. However, after carrying out a collective analysis of the pros and cons of the implementation of preventative maintenance, it is clear that the pros outweigh the cons by far.

For example, it could be argued that one of the cons of carrying out preventative maintenance is that breakdowns tend to happen at inconvenient timings, so preventative maintenance can only be a waste of time. Another argument is that, in the short term, preventative maintenance results in a reduction of the total output due to halting machinery to carry out maintenance procedures. With regards to labor workers, preventative maintenance can seem to be labor-intensive and also increases chances of accidents as a result of the extra exposure to dangerous machinery.

Financially, many argue that the increased implementation of preventative maintenance procedures is costly (upfront) as a set of certified staff are constantly required to carry out the relevant procedures. These are some of the cons of preventative maintenance as viewed by E&P companies. According to Eng. Ahmed Farouk Ibrahim, HSE Manager at Orascom Construction, “Proper administration of preventative maintenance systems is crucial to ensure its effective application.” Eng. Ahmed Farouk Ibrahim also continued to mention that, “Preventative maintenance costs should be calculated in terms of the long run and not upfront costs. In fact, a pump worth a few thousand EGP could fail when not properly maintained and end up costing millions if the entire system is affected.”

On the other hand, there are multiple pros to carrying out preventative maintenance in the E&P sector. For instance, in the long run, by regularly checking the equipment, the risk of failure decreases. Also, by following a coordinated schedule, the days in which maintenance takes place could be properly scheduled to minimize production losses. By doing so, important days where all equipment must be running will not be disturbed. Additionally, by keeping equipment intact through preventative maintenance, the life of the equipment is more likely to be extended; this not only cuts cost by not replacing equipment too soon, but also increases efficiency of the working parts to maximize output as much as possible. In fact, when machinery is not properly cleaned and maintained, it takes more energy for that piece of machinery to operate, hiking the energy costs of the company. For such reasons, it is essential to ensure that preventative maintenance measures are implemented in all sectors as the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide.

Case Study: Avoiding Obstacles

As per a case study conducted by the United States (US) Department of Energy, the oil and gas industry has deeply benefited from the implementation of preventative maintenance. In fact, the US Department of Energy has conducted a study in which it was found that the Return on Investment (ROI) of a company that implements preventative maintenance is 10 times higher than that of a company that does not. Additionally, it was estimated that maintenance costs and downtime reduced by 30% and 75% respectively. This means that the cost of hiring maintenance staff, limiting production, and causing minor inconveniences for maintenance procedure could be compensated in the long run. Not only this, but it was found that the implementation of preventative maintenance could result in the increase of production by 20% to 25% as opposed to negatively impacting production outputs. These statistics offer an optimistic approach to viewing preventative maintenance in the oil and gas sector.

In conclusion, there are always efficient ways in which preventative maintenance could be improved. For instance, other than the fact that preventative maintenance ensures better efficiency and outputs over the long run, without proper involvement and perseverance, this would not be possible. In other words, this is achieved by regularly carrying out workshops and/or sessions to further educate staff and ensure that their knowledge on maintenance procedures is constantly updated. Furthermore, by constantly evaluating the carried out preventative maintenance procedures, the company can gather further information about procedures that are working well and procedures that are inefficient and need improvement. Finally, communication is key. It is important to establish a clear network with staff at all levels to keep everyone updated about routine maintenance (to minimize inconvenience in all departments) and about any improvements that could be made. In conclusion, preventative maintenance is an integral part of the oil and gas industry and could be further improved in its methods to maximize productivity.