Insufficient priority is given to long term maintenance considerations at construction, according to one technical services company.
Furmanite says a number of services traditionally viewed as maintenance measures, and so not considered until the plant is operational, may be applied to advantage at the engineering design or construction stage of the asset lifecycle. The company says this can cut operating costs.
Furmanite sales manager David Arnold says Trevitest on-line valve testing technology is an example of a valuable contributor to reducing on-going maintenance costs and extending intervals between shutdowns.
But, Arnold says, it has a further benefit when applied at the point of design and construction.
“Trevitest is widely used in advance of operational plant maintenance shutdowns to hot-test safety and relief valves at normal operating pressures and temperatures with no disruption to production, so that only those valves needing repair and maintenance are removed from the line during outage,” Arnold says.
“This creates substantial time and cost savings by avoiding the need for time-consuming removal and bench testing of valves within outage schedules,” he says.
“However, considering this service at design stage can have further benefits, both in construction and long-term operation.
“Firstly, specify valves within the plant design that can be tested on-line in this way as most safety relieve valves for use in steam, air, gas process and water systems can be.
“This will ensure that the full benefits of on-line Trevitesting can be enjoyed in operation, minimising on-going valve maintenance costs.”
Arnold says using this technology at new plant construction stage allows new valves to be fingerprinted in advance of installation.
The valves are cold-tested in the workshop to verify the set pressure and valve lift, and obtain a graph print out, or “fingerprint”, of the valve’s operating characteristics. Once installed, they are then Trevitested again and the fingerprint compared with the original to identify any changes during transport or installation.
Arnold says identifying any inconsistencies before start-up avoids re-work and represents significant time and cost savings in construction. Further, the fingerprint can be used for future valve tests throughout the asset’s life.
“Similar benefits can apply to joint integrity, where using a service such as Furmanite’s Pressurized Systems Integrity not only achieves a zero-leak start-up and drives down construction costs by avoiding delays, it also means that a full and detailed electronic record of each critical joint is set up from the start. This can then be accessed when the plant is operational for maintenance planning to help avoid unscheduled downtime and shutdowns can be handled with maximum efficiency,” Arnold says.
Furmanite suggests that because plant construction and expansion is a capital expenditure while maintenance is an operating cost, this may be at the heart of the problem as the respective budgets are handled separately.
“If this is so, better ‘joined up thinking’ and communication between budget holders could make the difference. Otherwise, in the long term, mining plant operators could be losing out on opportunities to minimise maintenance costs,” Arnold says.