Kittiwake Developments Ltd. - PRODUCT NEWS

Remote Oil Analysis for the Oil & Gas Industry.

By 2008/2009, it was expected that competition in the crude oil market will have forced prices down as a result of new fields, and current political and weather effects are consigned to history. Right now, as described by a lubricant company employee recently, the upstream crude oil operators are lighting their cigars with $100 bills.

With increasing demands for profitability, yet with more competition on price, the upstream sector will be seeking internal measures to reduce operating costs. One of the key areas of focus is the Maintenance function and the demand for zero-maintenance equipment from OEMs. However, ad-hoc maintenance budget and purchasing cuts will result in unreliable equipment, with short-term savings resulting in long-term expenses of rectification of neglected systems.

Smart maintenance allows for better quality of attention, yet with long term, sustained, reduction in maintenance overheads. Case studies frequently show an attained 50% increase in productivity, yet with a sustained 50% decrease in maintenance costs. This will translate to increased service life or an extension of MBTF/R (Mean-time-between-failure/rebuilds). All of these successes that have been reviewed in the various journals were achieved through a strategy of implementing Proactive Maintenance with a strong focus on lubrication.

Proactive strategies seek to extend machine and component (including the lubricant) life, and minimise problems associated with their reliable operation. The benefits of this are actually far reaching, providing financial gains in areas often overlooked. For example, in the many industry case studies, it is found that frequent benefits are found in the following areas as a result of a sound lubrication maintenance and reliability strategy:

* Improved Health and Safety with an associated risk cost reduction. More inspections with minimal maintenance intervention will reduce exposure of personnel to risk associated tasks - a real concern with limited medical facilities on a platform.

* Improved Environmental compliance within ISO 14000 and the Responsible Care programmes. Apart from the image perception of these programmes for the Oil & Gas companies, changes in practices can again minimise risk costs associated with fines and penalties. In addition, sound lubrication practices can minimise energy consumption (Climate Change Levy) through more efficient manpower and equipment usage and minimised heavy maintenance tasks.

* Compliance within ISO 9000 which now requires maintenance tasks, including lubrication activities, to be written and audited for completeness.

* A defined lubrication strategy will further allow employee development by setting out the task and education training requirements for personnel, and offer a route for lubrication engineers to follow in career development.

If the platform is to:
* Increase its productivity time,
* And reduce in service maintenance costs and lost production,
* Yet retain, or even improve on its reliability,
* And gain life extension over current machinery service performance.

Then there are some basic principles that must be followed.

1. Select appropriate, quality lubricants and components that meet the demands of the system design to ensure optimised reliability needs.
2. Ensure that all the root cause conditions are set correctly prior to commissioning or before start-up.
3. Undertake regular checks of any root-cause conditions to ensure these are not beyond acceptable limits during machine operation.
4. Keep production within the safe limits of the component capabilities to avoid accelerated wear or catastrophic failure.

It is point 3 that is usually a hurdle to most site engineers, in terms of oil analysis at least, as the remote location of a platform or field makes it difficult for frequent enough testing to be valid. The option is for a platform to carry a basic set of oil analysis tools, but, apart from space constraints, this requires staff skilled in the use of the instruments for it to be meaningful, and conscientious enough to use them correctly, even assuming that time is available for such tasks.

Kittiwake, already an established leader in the Fuel and Lube Oil testing market in the Marine industry, has taken steps to address the issues of oil analysis in these remote conditions. Kittiwake recently launched a range of remote online sensors for lubricant and machine condition monitoring.

Kittiwake, based in West Sussex with over 50 employees, acquired Analex in 2003 to enhance their range of portable, rugged and low cost lubricant analysis tools. Analex, established in the early 80s, is best known to engineers as the PQ result seen on millions of oil analysis reports, and recommended by Caterpillar as the wear debris monitor of choice.

Speaking at a recent Distributor conference, Chris Leigh-Jones, Managing Director, said "Remote online sensor technology is the way forward in the 21st Century. With the emphasis on machine reliability, the Kittiwake Sensor range will put lubricant and machine condition information in the hands of the engineer, real-time. Remote online sensors improve the overall analysis process, allowing for accurate trending through more consistent and frequent measurements, which can only result in a more profitable proactive maintenance strategy." He added, "The technology would reduce the safety and environmental hazards associated with sampling in many applications, as well as benefiting many remote sites where the logistics of shipping samples is frequently a non-starter."

With regard to the specification, he pointed out that, "With its self-diagnosing digital and analogue outputs, the sensors can be easily integrated into existing Condition Monitoring and operating control systems. That has to be a benefit to users with high capital cost systems, and especially to large volume lubricant users. The OEM industry would also benefit on new builds for improved monitoring during the critical start-up on new locations. The sensors go beyond the normal protection devices, and enhance the root-cause monitoring approach to reliability."

May 2010

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