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Data is king, and it’s no different in risk, reliability and maintenance

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Oilfield Technology,

Whether process plant, module or installation, the refinement of risk and maintenance planning is a constant process and one that involves the management of a vast set of variables. Everything from wave conditions to wind speeds, pipeline pressure to valve performance, all have to be factored in order to understand the performance and condition of an asset and its innumerable components.

Principles of risk, reliability and maintenance (RRM)

On an oil and gas producing asset there are hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment. Just one failure can cause issues, production slow down or worse.

Safety is at the heart of all risk, reliability and maintenance (RRM) activities. RRM frameworks help manage issues, assess reliability and schedule work using a risk-based approach to maintenance management. By leveraging data and expert operational and engineering knowledge, specific areas of concern can be identified and appropriate performance standards implemented to ensure all effort and investment produces the greatest effect.

The RRM approach involves a comprehensive review of topsides equipment on an asset. Examples include production, auxiliary and safety systems, and can also incorporate the subsea infrastructure, the wellheads and the production facilities.

RRM works by seeking to understand how critical each piece of equipment is, taking into account different perspectives and defining what is most important for a process, system or module through criticality assessments. These assessments are followed by assignment of maintenance strategies and tasks, where run-to-failure is not an option.

The RRM project can be driven by the operator or partner; however, in many instances, a specialist is brought in to help identify and work through the process to consider which pieces of equipment or systems are most important for each individual asset, with efficient and effective maintenance plans created according to particular standards. Safety is obviously paramount throughout, while financial, reliability and operational factors must also be considered.

Data is king

Because of the sheer quantity of equipment and parts on an asset, identifying where problems have occurred can be a costly and time-consuming task, particularly when it comes to analysing performance and understanding what equipment is the most critical.

Today, advances in condition-based monitoring technologies and data analytics mean that huge amounts of operational information can be gathered to provide a snapshot of the performance of specific equipment. This enables operations to make smarter decisions, and by honing in on the optimal maintenance routines they can ensure they are making the right decisions, at the right time and for the right commercial reasons.

Enhanced data gathering enables maintenance optimisation on a grand scale. The aim is for work to be carried out at the correct time from a safety and value perspective – never too early that it is an unnecessary cost, nor too late that an issue is missed.

With an optimal RRM strategy, the operator has the ability to make confident, informed and optimised plans around how and where to focus maintenance efforts. This in turn optimises time spent carrying out maintenance and inspections, frees up hours that could be focused on other critical tasks, or safely removes the need for certain inspections completely.

A simplistic example of this is the adoption of a proactive spare parts strategy, which will ensure that an operator has the right equipment, in the right quantities and accessible within the right time frame. It may not be necessary to keep an inventory of 5000 bolts, however having the right amount of specified pressure safety valves (PSVs), for example, would be critical and absolutely necessary. Reviewing and optimising a spares strategy will guarantee that risk is being addressed and managed, as well as potentially save hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, through accurate control and visibility of equipment stock.

A more complex example is the ability to use a RRM approach to assess historical data, extracted from an asset’s computer maintenance management system (CMMS) or other source. This data is then analysed by experts using customised algorithms and data analytics techniques to identify problems, reduce waste and refocus maintenance activities. This can identify ‘bad actors’, poor performing equipment or one-off failures that often dictate the overarching schedule. These can then be uniquely identified, and a specific maintenance or replacement plan can be put in place. Consequently, this enables asset owners to manage costs and efficiencies more effectively, without compromising safety and without incurring additional risk.

Case study – Brazil overview

The RRM principle is something Oceaneering has been successfully providing its customers for many years. One example of the organisation’s approach to RRM was on an offshore installation in Brazil, which had recently changed ownership.

The customer had purchased an already operational asset and was also entering a new geography which provided various risk and unknowns. The new owner had to be sure that the maintenance and risk planning process was one they could trust and rely on for the future.

With an acquiring asset, it is always more difficult to review and plan risk because there are many unknowns in relation to performance, reliability and condition. There are hundreds of thousands of components to consider: have all of them been accurately maintained and inspected at the right time? Have they been replaced? Are the records accurate or, in some cases, able to be interpreted?

There were some distinct challenges in this case. The operator approached Oceaneering as the expert service provider to translate the data into its existing company computer maintenance management system. The inherited maintenance strategy was focused on run-to-failure, whereas the new operator wanted to adopt a preventive maintenance strategy aligned with its global approach to maintenance management. It was also unsure whether data sets were complete, and it required a level of reassurance that all the relevant information was available or could be retrieved.

Oceaneering performed analysis to identify any gaps and missing information, then used its own technical experience coupled with historical data from similar assets to compensate for missing information. From there, schematics and technical databases were cleansed and updated to provide an accurate picture of the asset’s status. This included an assessment of more than 160 000 equipment tags.

As with many operators, this customer had a clear preference on how it wanted the maintenance information to be structured, so the programme was built to meet its individual requirements, recommending improvement opportunities to reduce costs along the way.

Impact of RRM

The implementation of the RRM approach has fundamentally changed the way in which the maintenance programme is now executed on the asset. It has delivered measurable benefits to the customer including:

  • A 50% reduction in annualised hours, leading to a year-on-year saving of US$10 million.
  • Mitigated risk by providing accurate identification of safety critical equipment that was invisible in previous plans.
  • Reclassification of more than 30 000 redundant equipment tags.
  • Precision, control and visibility of maintenance on the asset supports efficient use of people on board (POB) resulting in less exposure to harmful activities.
  • A uniform approach for maintenance management, in line with the customer’s global standards.


As advances in data gathering and processing start to make their mark on oil and gas asset management, the benefits are clear. Where the itemisation and monitoring of the otherwise overwhelming number of components on a drilling or exploration asset would once have been impossible to do manually, independent and experienced partners can now make this not only possible, but a highly efficient process. Moreover, the benefits to asset owners speak for themselves. Reduced risk through enhanced risk management and increased production reliability are the holy grail of hydrocarbon production, and RRM puts this in reach for everyone – not only now but for decades to come.

Author: Rickard Dalman, Operations Manager, Integrity Management at Oceaneering

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