How to Plan Successful Plant Shutdowns in the Chemical Industry

25/25   in the series Industry Interviews

Disclosure: This content is provided by Hexagon and reflects their views, opinions, and insights.

Chemical plants shut down for inspections, repairs, alterations, as well as minor and major maintenance. Without scheduled maintenance shutdowns, equipment at the chemical plant may fail.

Nonproductive days during the shutdown may be costly, but there is a much steeper price if the chemical plant experiences a process safety incident resulting in personal injury, death, or environmental damage. Some components of the chemical plant may deteriorate over time, leading to suboptimal reliability, structural integrity, and performance. Even though it is possible for operations to continue with some deterioration, shutdowns are necessary at some point for maintenance and repairs.

Planned shutdown

Scheduled process outages are necessary to allow chemical plants to conduct maintenance work at minimal costs. An outage is referred to as a planned shutdown. Planned shutdowns are costly for chemical plants. A lot of personnel, including employees and subcontractors, are involved, which places a significant strain on human resources as they prepare and execute the planned shutdown.

Unscheduled outages are substantially more expensive than planned ones; moreover, the cost increases significantly if a chemical plant shuts down due to catastrophic failure.

Advantages of planned plant shutdown

Planned shutdown offers several advantages for chemical plants:

  • Planned plant shutdowns keep the chemical plant equipment in peak condition. Optimally functioning equipment yields higher-quality products, fewer rejections and defects, increased repeatability, lower need for corrective processes or rework, and improvements in production efficiency and processes.
  • By following a strict preventive maintenance schedule, you can perform proactive maintenance, and the procurement sector can place orders and maintain an inventory with accuracy.
  • Additionally, the staff can identify potential issues early and schedule corrective maintenance with a minimal impact on production. The anticipation will help to improve safety and to reduce risks incurred by employees and subcontractors.
  • Finally, by preventing unexpected downtime, you can reduce the need for expensive emergency repairs and orders.

Minimizing costs

You can minimize costs at a chemical plant by undergoing scheduled outages for major maintenance work and possible modifications. HxGN EAM’s Enterprise Asset Management platform is designed to support plant maintenance during scheduled outages. Enterprise Asset Management can help minimize downtime, improve safety, reduce costs, and increase the profitability of assets.

The Enterprise Asset Management platform consists of modules with core capabilities such as Asset Management, Asset Performance Management, Work Management, Materials Management, Safety Management, Reports, Asset Investment Planning and Budget Management. The Budget Management module of the Enterprise Asset Management analyzes expenditures associated with maintenance work. This analysis can help you develop strategies for minimizing costs.

Asset Investment Planning module will help you to optimize your investments all along the life of your equipment. Criteria like criticality or risk level will be used to prioritize your assets, and multiple scenarios will help determine the best strategy to put in place.

Maintaining safety

Planned shutdowns with periods of non-production are critical for safe operations and maintaining effectiveness at chemical plants. However, maintaining safety at the chemical plant during the shutdown is paramount. This is because many non-routine procedures are conducted during shutdowns that can lead to unusual and unexpected situations. Enterprise Asset Management has a Safety Management module designed to provide safety support.

This module identifies and controls all hazardous activities, situations, and materials to protect the personnel and environment. Additionally, this module helps with health, safety, and environmental (HSE) regulatory compliance.

Data analysis

To conduct a successful shutdown, you need to collect and analyze data from predictive maintenance technologies prior to the shutdown date. This data will help you identify your asset’s defects, severity, and root causes. You need asset data to determine the need for immediate maintenance or repairs and when to schedule a plant shutdown. Hexagon provides a digital reality solution that combines software, sensor, and autonomous technologies.

The sensors can support your planned plant shutdowns by providing data about potential failures. Your team can monitor the chemical plant online in real-time using the sensors to identify failures before they occur. This will allow the maintenance staff to schedule a shutdown and prepare for an intervention. The Enterprise Asset Management software will empower you to make strategic decisions that prolong the life of your assets.

Root-cause analysis

Failures in critical equipment at chemical plants can cause emergency shutdowns with lengthy delays in start-up and significant output losses. Analysis of process data can provide an understanding of the root cause of start-up issues and other problems in the chemical plant. Enterprise Asset Management can help with root-cause analysis of some of these issues. The Enterprise Asset Management software collects data, generates real-time reports, and allows you to develop custom reports for analyzing data. The data analysis features can help you identify the root cause of some of the failure issues.

Plant shutdowns are necessary for chemical plants to conduct maintenance and promote optimal functioning of equipment. You need a strategic enterprise management system to help reduce costs, increase productivity, improve safety, and maximize uptime during plant shutdowns. HxGN EAM addresses the key issues that chemical plants face during shutdowns with a cloud-based system that is easily scalable and highly configurable. HxGN EAM Mobile Applications improve flexibility of the technicians on the field in their day-to-day activities.

Contact an HxGN EAM representative to schedule a meeting to discuss our Enterprise Asset Management solutions.

Edouard Podolak

Edouard Podolak is a senior solution consultant in Hexagon’s Asset Lifecycle Intelligence division where he has spent nearly 20 years helping clients achieve exceptional results when implementing and maintaining an enterprise asset management system. He focuses on the extension of an asset's lifecycle and the quantification of its performance, process optimization, as well as change management. Read more.

Disclosure: This content is provided by Hexagon and reflects their views, opinions, and insights.