Oil Refinery Maintenance

An oil refinery is an amazingly complex system of highly technical equipment, machinery, and vessels. The many technical processes involved require a staggering amount of component parts – bolts, screws, fittings, valves, instruments, filters, and dozens of other items. Often rated in size by the thousands of barrels per day of processing capacity, refineries can encompass hundreds or even thousands of acres of land. It takes years and billions of dollars to plan and build a refinery. An oil refinery is usually in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and requires hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees to operate.

Once construction is completed and a refinery is operational, a major portion of the operating budget is spent on maintaining and repairing malfunctioning equipment and engineered systems. When refinery equipment unexpectedly malfunctions, the consequences can be severe and expensive. One of the costliest activities in refinery maintenance is unplanned repair, or corrective maintenance, which is required when equipment suddenly underperforms or fails. In these circumstances, the fix is to restore function as quickly as possible; meanwhile, the costs of such repairs are difficult to anticipate or control. In many circumstances, repairs are not totally effective due to lack of proper personnel or tools, unexpected technical requirements, regulatory restrictions, environmental issues, or access to equipment.

All equipment in any industrial plant is subject to wear as it ages. The intense processes of an oil refinery – with dramatic extremes in temperature and pressure and caustic chemical compounds – often create an especially stressful environment for equipment. Malfunctions and outages in refinery equipment are inevitable. However, well planned and executed maintenance programs can minimize the downtime and expenses caused by unexpected shutdowns. A critical work program of regular and periodic plant maintenance and repair of equipment, materials, and systems is an important division of any major refinery operation.

In the highly technical realm of an oil refinery, effective maintenance requires personnel with specialized knowledge, training, and organization. Maintenance engineers and technical workers direct their efforts to maximize performance, cost savings, and enhancing the value of the refinery – an objective sometimes called “ asset integrity management (AIM).”

Matrix NAC, the union labor division of Matrix Service Company, is well organized and staffed to plan and execute a broad range of planned refinery maintenance services – inspection driven preventive maintenance, data-based predictive maintenance programs, or complete turnarounds of certain units or entire processes.

The end results are higher efficiency, lower operating costs, the increased life expectancy of equipment, reduced capital expenditure, and increased safety of all personnel.

In light of specific labor regulations in some states, California is one, in particular, Matrix NAC is able to place qualified and approved personnel on-site for turnkey maintenance programs. Across North America, Matrix NAC has a long history in the design and construction of large and complex plants and installations across a broad range of industry sectors. Our depth of experience and expertise and our collaborative approach has prepared us to provide effective oil refinery maintenance programs for our larger clients.

Matrix NAC offers a “nested” mechanical maintenance program to minimize unplanned events. In brief, this concept adopts the philosophy of refinery maintenance as a proactive long-term process versus a reactive short-term set of fixes.

The key to our successful refinery maintenance program – with the goals of efficiency, savings, and safety– is to have a staff of highly skilled Matrix NAC people on site at the refinery every day. These professionals are trained and organized to perform specialized tasks according to a thoroughly developed maintenance plan approved by the refinery operator. By having maintenance pros on the ground daily, equipment and systems can be operated continuously at maximum efficiency. While the repair of refinery equipment and systems is expensive, the organization and implementation of well-planned preventive and predictive maintenance procedures can create substantial savings. Important added benefits achieved in planned maintenance are improved employee safety and enhanced environmental control.

Preventive maintenance is performed in regularly scheduled intervals based on the age and remaining life of a piece of equipment. The frequency of inspection and maintenance is based on the probability and consequences of failure. Typically, preventive maintenance work is planned and completed when equipment is shut down. The purpose is to eliminate unnecessary inspection and repair tasks and reduce maintenance costs. Examples of preventive maintenance may include simple tasks such as tightening bolts, changing oil, lubricating equipment, or adding parts such as filters to prevent impurities from contaminating products. Predictive maintenance is a continuous process based on the current condition of the equipment. Sometimes predictive maintenance is called condition-based monitoring. The purpose of predictive maintenance is to prevent unscheduled shutdowns by predicting damage and failures before they occur. This can be done through inspection methods or utilizing sensors to collect data and measure the current condition of equipment during operation. Predictive maintenance uses measurements, signal processing, and oil and gas engineering to estimate the useful lifetime of the equipment. This type of maintenance supplements preventive maintenance, and it involves close collaboration with equipment vendors. Although installing predictive maintenance measures can be costly, the result of such an investment shows an overall reduction in shutdowns.

Turnarounds. Major refinery turnarounds, where several sectors or even the entire refinery is shut down, are usually scheduled every 3 to 5 years. A turnaround can result in a unit being out of operation for several weeks to several months. Implementing a turnaround may involve 1-2 years of
advance planning on critical fuel production systems– especially when key processing systems and equipment are being replaced. Such projects often require engineering and construction services that mirror the building of a new refinery, using dedicated teams from the company as well as
outside contracting and engineering firms. During a major turnaround, more than 1,000 skilled contractors may be employed on the site. Thorough planning precedes the project and detailed work orders must be followed to coordinate the overlapping tasks and processes.

Matrix NAC can perform turnkey maintenance services on a wide range of equipment, fabrications, and installations throughout the refinery’s complex systems piping, pumping, towers, exchangers, drums, flanges, fittings, and state-of-the-art decontamination facilities. Our company’s experience in oil and gas engineering, refinery construction, and construction of tank storage terminals provides invaluable insight in maintaining, repairing, and cleaning units inside and outside the refinery. Where we have been closely involved in the engineering, procurement, and construction in a refinery, our knowledge of the facility and its processes can be valuable in the efficient and effective maintenance of that refinery.

Throughout North America, Matrix NAC serves companies across a broad range of industry sectors, handling both capital projects and ongoing repair and maintenance programs. Our collaborative approach, highly trained and skilled workforce, and our commitment to quality and safety allow us to
build close, long-term relationships that meet the unique requirements of our clients as they respond to industry trends and market expectations.

Matrix NAC began union operations in 1986, but our history as a top tier contractor across multiple industries extends back as far as 1919 with the experience acquired through Hake Group, S.M. Electric, and Kvaerner North American Construction. Today, Matrix NAC enjoys a long-standing reputation for integrating and leading a host of service offerings in support of varied project types throughout the oil, gas, petrochemical, electrical infrastructure, and industrial markets.