Oil and Gas Facility Doubles Output by Finding Opportunity Where None was Believed to Exist

An upstream oil & gas facility was struggling to reach its design production capacity. After years of grappling with technical problems and maintenance issues, some in the management team felt that the plant was “lucky” to be operating where it was. Plans for a series of capital projects to increase capacity had become the main focus. However, with multi year timelines required to execute these projects, the company stood to defer nearly a billion dollars in revenue and was running out of options.

An operational excellence program had been in place for 3 years and multiple internal improvement teams were working hard to get every possible drop through the facility. However, each time they tried to improve throughput, another technical roadblock would crop up, limiting the gains to not much better than the status quo. The mindset that there was little opportunity left to get more out of the existing plant had become cemented in the conventional wisdom. At this point Stroud was engaged to challenge this belief and determine whether more was possible.

The first step involved acknowledging a prevalent mindset to dial back the production rate whenever a problem arose and then, once the symptoms became manageable, not challenge the rate or try to solve the problem again. Everyone recognized that this mindset must change.

The second step involved providing evidence that opportunity for throughput improvement actually existed. This was done through a Zero-Based Analysis process where every individual asset was performance tested. This shed light on some long standing myths and showed it was theoretically possible to double plant throughput. Most importantly, it showed that the first 20% of these gains were locked up in the performance of a single asset!

The final step was to tackle the technical challenges facing this asset, which a focused improvement team took on over the course of 8 weeks. By studying these challenges, using a rigorous problem solving approach, the team demonstrated that:

  • The instantaneous processing rate of the asset could be increased by over 20%

  • A seemingly unpredictable fouling problem, that has been taking the asset down every 2-3 weeks, could be solved permanently

  • The asset’s planned maintenance shutdowns could be reduced in duration by over 50%

These initial achievements fostered a new belief that much higher performance was possible.

Over the course of the next two years the team went on to increase output from the existing facility by 100%; an achievement worth over a billion dollars of NPV to the company. More importantly, executive perspectives fundamentally changed to treat every problem as solvable, leading to the realization of substantial additional value in other business units.

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