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Seven steps to drilling equipment maintenance happiness

Leon Bickerstaffe, global head of drilling services, highlights the importance of preventative maintenance for drilling equipment and how to ensure you are taking full advantage of the benefits it provides.

As we continue with the norm of $60 oil, consolidation of teams is increasingly common place. Reduction of costs and extending the time between regular preventative maintenance and major shutdowns have become a key way to save money, but it is only a matter of time before the lack of maintenance causes serious problems.

Underestimating the importance of equipment maintenance is a big risk that inevitably takes its toll on the bottom line. While it is tempting to think that there’s no need to pay for maintenance if there isn’t a problem, drilling equipment is an expensive investment that requires time and money to ensure its reliability. Preventative maintenance is key to extending equipment life and the reality is without it you’re often left with more expensive repairs. These seven reasons show the importance of preventative maintenance and how to get the most out of it:

Small problems grow over time

A piece of equipment isn’t working exactly the way it used to, but it isn’t affecting the job significantly, so work continues and adjustments are made to keep things moving. While it may seem like this is the most efficient way to get the job done in the short term, it’s likely to cause major headaches in the future.

Fixing big problems is expensive

It may seem like it doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money to have equipment inspected or repaired when you’re able to work around it, but waiting is going to cost even more. Bigger, more complex repairs come with a bigger price tag - likely having to replace more and/or larger parts that are more expensive, but it doesn’t end there.

Big problems often translate to more downtime, and more downtime means you’re suddenly behind schedule at best, or on unpaid downtime with an unhappy client. If employees were scheduled to work with that piece of equipment, you’re now paying them even though they are unable to do the job.

Obviously, you’ll do what it takes to get the equipment back up and running as soon as possible, but expedited shipping for parts comes at a cost. Problems can snowball so it is better to invest in the smaller issue.

Monitor equipment technology

This seems obvious, but equipment technology has come a long way and many models have a variety of sensors in place to alert you if something isn’t working properly. Making sure someone is monitoring the technology means you can collect data on equipment performance. There are also tools you can use to supplement the in-built equipment technology. For example, vibration monitoring, thermal imaging, and audio gauges can all help you collect real-time information on the condition of your drilling equipment.

Train operators and technicians

Regardless of how many different technologies are available, there is no substitute for knowledge and experience retained by competent people. It takes a trained operator to understand the problem and a trained technician to know how to manage a repair. Educating your equipment operators and technicians is key to extending the life of your equipment and preventing issues from escalating.

Set and stick to a maintenace schedule

Every piece of equipment is different. They all have their own intricacies and need a maintenance and repair schedule to match. Over time, there are seals, belts, bolts, etc., that will need to be replaced. Rather than waiting for these parts to cause a problem, change them when they are scheduled to be replaced.

How do you know when that is? The piece of equipment will have an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) maintenance recommendation. Commit to it. It may seem like fixing something that isn’t broken but neglecting to do this will result in expensive repairs. Those parts are components of a much larger system, and the last thing you want is to replace the whole thing. Not only does that involve a higher cost for parts, but it also leads to downtime to carry out a more extensive repair - likely at a workshop onshore.

Conduct regular inspections

Inspections are not the same as maintenance schedules. Drilling equipment should be inspected every time it’s used. Checking for simple things, like signs of wear on equipment, can go a long way. The reality is heavy equipment is often used with vibration, high temperatures and friction, all of which contribute to the wear and tear of moving parts. Add age to the mix, and you have a recipe for deterioration. This happens with all equipment, and the key to extending equipment life is to make sure you do something as simple as adding an operator visual inspection to your equipment use requirements. Noticing warped belts, dry or cracked seals, and loose bolts may seem small, but these things can be identified and fixed before they cause a larger problem. It’s also important to keep up with any extensive inspections that may be a part of your OEM maintenance plan along with more in- depth annual inspections on site.

Add lubricants

Lubrication is crucial in any equipment, it reduces friction between moving parts and can extend the life of drilling equipment. Get to know each piece of equipment you have and what type of lubricant they require. Lubrication is not a one-size-fits-all substance, so make sure you talk to a knowledgeable company to determine the manufacturer’s recommendations. There may be some places you’re able to check and supplement on your own between scheduled maintenance, but other areas may require a trained technician. Over time, friction due to a lack of lubrication can cause significant wear and tear, reducing the life of your equipment.

Preventative maintenance does what it says on the tin, stops smaller issues from escalating into larger, more complex problems. Investing in the right preventative maintenance programme will ultimately save time and cost by mitigating against unplanned equipment downtime.

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