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From new project start-up to planned outage management, an engineering-led approach to valve spares enhances cost-efficiency and reliability.

Consistent valve performance is essential for smooth and efficient plant operations. Whether it’s level control in an oil and gas production context, or compressors on an LNG liquefaction train, valves are strongly linked to critical applications and tier-one assets. While they are often perceived to be relatively small components in themselves, valves impact many areas within a plant and play a significant role in safety and productivity.

A robust strategy surrounding procurement and stockholding of valve spares helps mitigate risks associated with their failure, from loss of production to process inefficiency and safety issues. Operators of new projects and established plant alike are beginning to re-categorise spares management as a vital function. The trend is influenced by safety and environmental issues as well as wider economic factors such as oil price volatility. Minimising downtime while maximising safety and profitability is a primary concern for all oil and gas operators. Having spares on-hand to enable rapid resolution of emergent problems is a critical factor in achieving this goal.

Severn Glocon Group has a longstanding spares division that works cohesively with operators and EPCs in tandem with the Group’s Severn Glocon (new projects) and Severn Unival (established plant) divisions. Director Tony Bradley has more than a decade’s experience in spares management and believes three crucial factors underpin this important discipline.

1.    Have a strategy in place and review it regularly
An effective spares strategy hinges on a fine balancing act between investment and risk. Spare parts can be expensive and take up valuable space, potentially sitting unused for long periods of time. On the other hand, damaged components can compromise operations from a safety and environmental perspective. This heightens the risk of unplanned outages, which can result in huge cost implications and brand damage.

Setting clear objectives and targets is fundamental. Expert guidance should be sought to ensure decision making is rooted in sound engineering principles. At the outset, maintenance managers and spares professionals should consider:

However, requirements will inevitably shift during a plant’s lifetime and spares management needs to reflect this with an ongoing, continually evolving strategy.

2.    Be proactive to enhance timeliness
Some spare parts can have a lead time of 20+ weeks. So, it is prudent for a new oil production facility or LNG plant to define a clear and concise list of spares to be held onsite prior to start-up. Ensuring vital components are readily available avoids any delays in the handover from EPC to operator if valve problems emerge during start-up. Spares professionals can make knowledgeable recommendations surrounding which parts should be invested in ahead of this critical phase.

Established plant managers also need to take a pre-emptive approach to spares and stockholding priorities. Since requirements and production challenges change over time, gathering robust insights on which components and valves are most likely to present performance issues is essential. This enables intelligent procurement of spares to be held onsite for rapid remedial action when problems arise. It also facilitates more sophisticated management of planned shutdowns.  

3.    Foster a partnership approach
Collaboration is key to optimise spares strategies. This is equally true of new projects and established plant.

New projects require a joined-up approach between EPCs, suppliers and Mechanical Electrical & Instrumentation Commission professionals. Detailed spares requirements are often buried in the extensive contract documentation associated with the construction phase of a project. Relevant information needs to be extracted at an early stage to ensure the needs of the plant are properly evaluated and catered for in good time.

A focused approach ensures all requirements are met ahead of the planned start-up date. Spares professionals can be actively involved in the handover to the EPC, enhancing efficiency and reducing the risk of start-up delays and penalties. They can also play an ongoing role facilitating risk-free operation from the point of handover onwards.

Established plant benefits from a cohesive relationship between operator engineers and spare parts specialists. It underpins more responsive ‘on demand’ spares management and better planning of spares requirements for periodic maintenance shutdowns.

Optimising plant performance needs to be the shared goal of any organisation or individual involved in spares. At Severn Glocon, this ethos infiltrates the entire organisation, whether we’re dealing with new projects or established plant.

The team draws on an extensive depth and breadth of valve engineering and application knowledge. We apply our expertise in the development of spares inventories and strategies that achieve a counterbalance between investment and risk. This is backed up by a global manufacturing and procurement team that focuses on efficient fulfilment and shipment of orders to meet strict deadlines and turnaround times.

These capabilities underpin the strength and durability of Severn Glocon’s spares division. Tony Bradley says his team is well-positioned to help clients devise intelligent, engineering-led spares strategies that deliver continual performance improvement.

“Our aim is to develop ever more efficient agreements with our clients to reduce the amount of time they need to dedicate to spares in-house. The beauty of Severn is that we combine engineering skill with a great team spirit where we work together to find solutions. We work closely with clients to devise bespoke approaches that play a key role in safe, reliable and profitable plant operations.”