Pre-Turnaround Planning: Take Guesswork Out of Operations

Oil refineries help keep the world running by turning crude oil into products that heat our homes, fuel our cars, and serve as several essential items in our daily lives. With such significance, refineries must maintain safe, uninterrupted production by avoiding asset failures, extended downtime, and potentially catastrophic events. 

Refineries typically conduct a turnaround, commonly called a TAR, to combat these challenges. During the turnaround process, assets are taken offline for an extended period to complete scheduled maintenance, perform inspections, repair or replace equipment, conduct cleaning activities, and ensure compliance. 

The primary goal is to complete the turnaround as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible. The key to successfully achieving this goal is effective pre-turnaround planning. Discover how to build an impactful pre-turnaround plan and the benefits of optimizing your roadmap.

Streamline Complexities to Maximize the Turnaround

Turnarounds, while extremely valuable, are typically very expensive and complex. Not only is revenue lost due to one or more units of the refinery being offline at a given time, but there can also be hundreds of contractors working on interdependent processes within the site, adding major logistical layers, risks, and expenses. With so much activity happening simultaneously, one minor issue or delay could send monumental ripple effects to the schedule, budget, and safety of workers. 

Making matters even more complicated, business demands are adding pressure to extend run times between turnarounds to increase revenue. Greater gaps between inspections add risk, making it that much more critical to maximize the work done during the turnaround. 

Fortunately, having the right technologies in place can relieve these pressures by providing in-depth insights that inform confident decision making to build an impactful turnaround roadmap.

Take a Data-Led Approach to Define the Work Scope

To get started with pre-turnaround planning, clearly define the turnaround goals and work scope. This includes determining the schedule, budget, and top priorities. Planning a turnaround of the right size is important to reduce the possibility of exceeding budgets and timeframes. 

Evaluate the risk associated with each asset to determine what should be included and what can be removed to reduce the overall turnaround scope. The most effective way to determine priority levels is by conducting Risk-Based Inspections (RBI), which entail collecting and analyzing structural data to understand the asset's current condition and level of risk. Risk-Based Inspections optimize maintenance plans through improved risk management, enabling refineries to maximize their resources and investments in the assets that have the highest probability for failure. Access to in-depth, high-quality inspection data can inform RBI programs and create a holistic view of asset health for individual vessels and across an entire refinery. 

Download the Pre-Turnaround Planning Case Study

However, not all inspection methods provide the same level of insight. Insufficient inspection methods can either misdiagnose issues or completely miss damage mechanisms altogether. Without a clear picture of asset health heading into the turnaround, issues will likely surface once the turnaround is in full swing and maintenance work begins, causing delays for subsequent activities, extending the turnaround timeframe, and adding unbudgeted costs. 

Let dense, high quality data inform the turnaround scope and future planning. With data analytics software platforms, refineries gain unprecedented insights into asset health through visualization tools, including maps, models, and digital twins across their entire networks of assets. Users can filter 2D and 3D thickness maps to view data below certain thresholds, making it quick and easy to identify the areas requiring immediate repair. Additionally, predictive modeling provides asset health insights from short term corrosion rate to remaining life analysis. These digital visualization solutions provide a categorical understanding of how assets are performing, allowing users to develop preventative maintenance plans that will improve their reliability, availability, and longevity over time.

Automated Solutions Drive Accuracy and Efficiency

There are various inspection methods that can be implemented to collect structural data. The accuracy, efficiency, and reliability levels vary significantly between each technique. Non-intrusive inspections using automated ultrasonic testing enable assets to be inspected externally, while online and in production. This provides maximum flexibility by conducting a full-coverage analysis before the turnaround begins without taking assets offline, opening equipment, reducing productivity, and cutting into valuable turnaround time. 

For example, Gecko Robotics’ wall-climbing robots crawl the entire surface of in-service assets without access requirements, reducing human exposure to safety risks while unlocking critical insights. The robots produce high-quality ultrasonic data that can detect a full spectrum of damage mechanisms, collecting 1,000x more data at speeds 10x faster than conventional methods without halting production.

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With automated ultrasonic testing methods, facilities can fully inspect assets during pre-turnaround planning to pull inspection work from the turnaround scope. Then, the data can help build an effective plan that prioritizes repair and maintenance work for assets that pose the most risk. The data will pinpoint where damage is present and provide predictive insights for damage progression. It can also help determine how much to budget for resources and materials, ensuring they are secured in a timely and cost efficient manner.

Recently, an oil refinery was planning to replace an asset during its upcoming turnaround, which was estimated to cost $1.1 million. Before making this significant investment to replace the asset, the facility wanted to conduct in-depth scanning to understand the asset’s condition better. Gecko’s data analysis determined that the facility could get an additional 12 years out of the asset, saving significant costs and reducing the overall turnaround scope.

Take Guesswork Out of Your Scope

The data analysis conducted for one turnaround can also help formulate future turnaround planning. Current asset health gets documented and can be utilized for ongoing tracking and monitoring. 

Without the foundation of in-depth inspection data, facilities risk overlooking or improperly documenting structural damage that could lead to extended turnaround windows, additional costs, and even disastrous accidents. Having access to accurate, objective data not only helps ensure the success of a turnaround, but it drives efficiency by empowering fast, confident decision making at scale.

Strategic, data-led planning reduces risks and equates to efficient execution that is on time and within budget. Gain visibility into critical assets to create safer, more reliable operations today and over time.

Learn how Gecko Robotics helped a petroleum refinery reduce its upcoming turnaround scope and save $1 million in asset replacement costs in this case study. 

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