The upstream segment is filled with challenging operating environment affected by both external and internal factors. World geo-political situations, macro-economic factors, demand scenario, etc., to name a few affect the industry significantly from the external factors perspective. The very internal operating environment itself is a complex task with assets located in remote inaccessible areas. Maintenance of these critical assets on a sustained basis to ensure their continuous availability to maximize production is an important part of the upstream operations.

What is Asset Integrity Management?

Asset Integrity Management (AIM) is a systematic management process which goes through assets’ whole lifecycle in an overall optimized way, aiming at sustainable development to reach a balance between reliability (for example performance, safety & environment) and economics so as to realize the organization’s strategic operating performance goals.

Asset Integrity Management Key for smart operations

AIM is a holistic approach toward maintaining production critical assets based on established framework through the asset life cycle. Basic components of AIM are establishment of critical standards & benchmarks, assessment & monitoring procedure, developing competencies & skills, maintenance execution and finally quality assurance & audit. Today AIM has become an integral part of any manufacturing operation. It combines procedure based maintenance with the safety, hazard and risk factors associated with particular equipment.

A safety and hazard matrix is prepared for each critical plant tool. This matrix tells us how disastrous it would be on the organization, people and environment in case of any failure relating to the integrity-critical equipment. By going through this process, exploration and production companies effectively mitigate the risks involved in operating sensitive equipment paving the way for effective risk management strategies.

Why is it important to identify integrity-critical equipment? As one may be aware, upstream operations require deployment of close to millions of equipment in the exploration activities. Maintaining all these equipment falls under the operational maintenance department. However, the entire equipment does not require the same maintenance strategy and approach as some of them may not be critical to production or safety in operations. Hence, we need to weed out the ones that are mission-critical in terms of production and safety. They are classified as integrity relevant equipment and demand a very special maintenance procedure as a part of the Enterprise Asset Management strategy.

Before we understand each of the AIM components, it would be helpful for one to understand the asset life cycle in an upstream environment. Since upstream production demands specially designed plant & equipment, AIM plays a critical role in the entire life cycle. A typical physical asset life cycle is design, construct, operate, enhance and abandon. In upstream context, these phases are broadly categorized as ODP (overall development plan), EPCI (Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Installation), O&M (Operations & Maintenance) and finally Life Extension & Disposal. In Life Extension & Disposal the plant is evaluated for possible life extension so that it can be sold or used in other upstream projects. Proper waste disposal strategy has to be formulated during abandonment of the plant.

Integrity in each of these phases is essential for smart upstream operation so as to achieve unhindered and maximized exploration. Upstream operations have multiple landscape such as subsea operations, well & drilling operations, marine operations, topside activities, storage facilities in case of FPSOs (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading units), etc. Critical equipment is deployed in entire operational landscape that demands unrelenting upkeep procedure and efforts for nifty & profitable operations.

Components of AIM

The concept of AIM is to achieve excellence in operational performance and effective risk management in operations. With this in mind, components of AIM are modifiable depending on the nature of operations.

As discussed earlier, integrity management has to flow through the asset life cycle and hence it has to start right from the ODP stage. During this phase, crucial AIM component that comes into play is standards & benchmarks relevant to particular equipment that the company is considering for deployment in production. There are numerous standards for different equipment stipulated as per the international best practices and regulatory requirements. Hence, while drafting the AIM strategy, these critical inputs should be taken into account and followed diligently during the design stage itself as a part of integrity management.

Another crucial constituent of AIM is assessment & monitoring procedure. This forms part of the governance framework of integrity management during the asset life cycle especially during its erection, commissioning and operation of equipment. Developing skills and competencies in integrity management is a challenging task. As such these skills are in short supply and hence a concerted effort is needed to nurture the talents and proper upskilling is needed at regular intervals.

The integrity-critical equipment requires specific strategies during the operational maintenance. For example work notifications for the equipment should be fast tracked compared to ordinary equipment either in approval processes or in scheduling and execution of maintenance work. This is because their continued availability is indispensable to avert any production loss.

Finally, as a performance evaluation measure, good quality assurance and audit procedure is essential for successful asset integrity. Meticulous reviews are done on the maintenance execution for the integrity-critical equipment. This is a mandatory step and a vital link in the governance process. Based on the reviews, gaps are identified and suitable corrective action is taken in case of any lack in adherence to the policies & procedures set out in the integrity management framework.

Key issues with AIM

As a concept, have no doubts that a well thought out AIM is fundamental powerhouse for effective upstream operational performance. But there are few challenges such as integrity data management and process governance.

Upstream operations deploy plethora of equipment and machineries and maintaining them is an intricate function as these gadgets generate large amount of data relating to their operating conditions. Gathering these data, collating them properly in an established format and interpreting them for a profitable business decision is a major task. This is where most of the AIM initiatives struggle to deliver the result. Hence, a robust asset data management is a pre-requisite for successful implementation of AIM.