Laura Hall & Charlie Watt on how to make maintenance budgets go further
It’s not the usual headline in a technical publication, but in today’s ever challenging world, the concept of guaranteeing ‘value for money’ is all too important, especially when that money is drawn from the operational and maintenance budget. How can operators make the most efficient use of the budget? How can they streamline the amount of resources to be mobilised? How can we maximise the availability of our assets? How can we optimise any time spent on project managing maintenance and the interface between various sub-contractors?
At the recent Wind Energy Hamburg event, one message was clear: wind energy is now. Halls were bursting at the seams with companies showcasing the innovations and solutions the on/offshore wind industry has to offer. Demand for greener energy is commonplace news, and generating it is a priority for countries globally. The challenge now lies is in making sure that the critical infrastructure put in place for this future can be sustained, planned for and protected to ensure long-term viability.
Poor maintenance planning or design in the project development stage will undoubtedly lead to increased maintenance costs. These range from contractual penalties, inefficiently executed maintenance programmes, reduced turbine availability through to personnel exposure to unnecessary health and safety risks by additional visits offshore, ever-increasing plant and equipment failures and costly breakdown repairs.
Other than regulatory or statutory inspections, most of the work associated with asset integrity tends to be reactive. Planning for an asset life cycle of 20-25 years and beyond from day one has many obvious (and also hidden) potential benefits but tends to be at the lower end of the priority scale. These benefits include improved structural integrity, fewer personnel mobilisations offshore; reduced breakdowns; increased turbine availability; improved health and safety record; and lower risk of environmental discharges or emissions. Turbine or substation unplanned outages can easily cost £250,000 in lost revenue per day.
The priority at installation is to get the asset up and running quickly, very little focus is given to the longevity. How assets are maintained in the future tends to be of a lower priority and takes a back seat.
Easy-Qote is trying to change the perspective, shifting the dial from reactive to preventative and by keeping things ‘easy’.
Easy-Qote is a polymeric coating that was developed based on the idea a corrosion solution could be applied simply as a patch rather than painting or spraying. It is a self-cleaning corrosion preventive patch designed for single-layer application, touch-up and spot-repair of existing coating systems.
As well as being an environmentally and worker-safe alternative to traditional coating systems with no VOCs it can be applied at a wide range of temperatures from -10 to 48°C.
And it is not just the product that saves money, it’s the process. For example, consider the following two scenarios.
In scenario one, corrosion has been found on critical components inside the nacelle.
In this scenario, personnel, materials and equipment need to be brought offshore to carry out corrosion repairs to any number of critical parts in the turbine.
Where surface preparation is required, this is likely to include all the requisite surface preparation tools, along with relevant coatings to carry out repairs, application tools, and not forgetting the rope access equipment.
Since there are so many steps in the work to be carried out, several visits may be required. If the weather is working against you, this could extend the time it takes to complete the job even further, and exponentially drive up the cost of carrying out the repairs. No cost can be put on the risk to offshore personnel every time they have to mobilise.
Once the job is complete, all equipment must still be transported back to shore. The offshore equipment can be inspected and used again, but other waste materials must be segregated and disposed of as per local environmental regulations.
All these additional risks and delays could have been avoided.
In scenario two, during the installation process, some minor damage to coatings has inadvertently happened to some structural steelwork. With the drive to complete commissioning, these minor coating repairs can be seen as insignificant and will be prioritised at a later date or added to snagging.
This minor defect could easily become a major structural defect in the future. Instead of leaving the damage, the installation team are armed with a roll of Easy-Qote, the damaged area is wiped, the patch applied, and protection is complete. No further personnel are needed, any exposure to corrosion in the future has been halted, risk to asset life removed, and all at minimal cost to the client. Who knew saving money on operational and maintenance costs could be so
The EQ product range can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, including ferrous and non-ferrous substrates, coated substrates, polymeric substrates such as PP & PE, but also on dry concrete and asphalt when abrasive blasting preparation or grinding is not an option.
Taking the steps to include Easy-Qote products at installation means taking preventative protection that’s set to last beyond 25 years. That will deliver value for money whilst protecting the future.
Laura Hall & Charlie Watt are with Seal For Life Industries