Saudi Aramco Claims 'Reliability Program of the Year' Honors

What’s it worth to reduce rotating equipment maintenance by 9%, slash rotating equipment failures by 90%, and eliminate 50,000 man-hours of preventative maintenance activities?

At the Saudi Aramco Ras Tanura Refinery in Saudi Arabia, it represented over US$10 million annually and won the trophy for this year’s Emerson Reliability Program of the Year. "Our results went from very good to excellent when we implemented our reliability program," said Eyad Al-Basrawi, reliability section head. "Some major accomplishments related to our operational performance KPIs include improving the mean time between failures [MTBFs] for our 48 compressors by 153%, for our 116 turbines by 167% and for our 1,653 pumps by 53%."

Saudi Aramco was one of four finalists that presented reliability programs to conference attendees and a panel of judges live this week at the the Emerson Global Users Exchange in Denver, Colorado. The Exchange presentations were the culmination of three competitive rounds that started with a 15-page questionnaire about its reliability program.

The two runner-ups were CMC Steel South Carolina and Corbion in Blair, Nebraska, with second place going to Exelon’s LaSalle County Nuclear Generating Station southwest of Chicago. During this session, the four companies presented best-in-class reliability programs, highlighting the effective use of reliability-based technologies, effective work processes, integrated maintenance best practices, leadership commitment and return on investment.

Saudi Aramco's accelerated reliability program met those requirements and more. "Our responsibility is to supply the demand of the kingdom so 24/7 operations are critical,” said Al-Basrawi. Back in 2013, the Ras Tanura refinery conducted a reliability self-assessment with the help of an outside source. It set out on a fast-track program it dubbed “Reliability Accelerated Culture Enhancement” (RACE) to inculcate a reliability culture at its facilities and improve rotating equipment reliability.

"It is a holistic and aggressive plan that that is aimed to instill the reliability culture and uplift asset reliability in an accelerated manner," said Al-Basrawi. "RACE is fully developed in-house. We created a reliability team to connect the technology to the people."

A critical element was the RTR reliability boot camp program. "The attendees spend five days from 7 am to 9 pm talking about reliability," said Al-Basrawi. "It accelerated the development of the workforce and supported transfer of the critical knowledge and key skills. Our operators, technicians and engineers created success story videos that were a very popular way of communicating success."

In addition to significant improvements to MTBF of rotating equipment, the refinery has seen a 180% increase in defect identification; restructured its vibration monitoring program for a $1.1M cost avoidance; improved air system efficiency by 20%, eliminating $850K of wasted energy; and boosted steam turbine performance, eliminating $7M in wasted energy.

In response to the judges noting Saudi Aramco made remarkable progress in a short amount of time, Al-Basrawi credited the refinery’s success to the legwork and homework done at the start. “Getting the operators and technicians involved was a big part of the change,” he said.