CBM To The Rescue: Avatar Team Recommends Data-Driven Asset Maintenance Strategy

Editor's Note: This article is one in a series that will showcase final presentations from this year’s Avatar Program — an industry-wide leadership, training and collaboration forum held virtually this summer. A partnership between Beaver Drilling Ltd., the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada (YPAC) and the University of Calgary, the program was designed to advance innovative solutions to the oil and gas industry and create new business lines, and engage young professionals. These articles will run each Wednesday.

There were nine teams in total and today we feature the presentation of our seventh team. Read all the articles in this special editorial series here.


Condition-based maintenance (CBM) “sets in motion a shift” in understanding and applying operational data, and it is one Avatar Program team’s core recommendation for energy companies to make decisions on their assets.

“What we propose is to shift our maintenance strategy from a reactive to a proactive approach — to leverage and rely more heavily on data to see immediate efficiencies and effectiveness,” Aaron Cho, transformation professional, told a panel of industry experts. “We should be applying the same principles we’ve already applied to cars and other industries onto our industry. It is only through this mindset that we can remain competitive through our reality.

“The bottom line is that failure on a single piece of critical equipment can be catastrophic and justify the entire cost of implementing CBM.”

As a maintenance strategy that monitors the actual condition of an asset to decide what maintenance must be done, CBM looks for certain indicators that show signs of decreasing performance or upcoming failure. Checking equipment for these indicators is applicable to mission critical and non-mission critical assets. It allows for optimal scheduling of preventive and corrective actions, which reduces total cost of ownership on an asset.

Rebecca Lloyd, senior control centre engineer at Enbridge Inc., said CBM fits naturally at the intersection of asset management and maintenance planning, using data as a resource, starting with asset owners providing input on equipment criticality. Using failure mode and effects analysis and fault tree analysis, technical experts then map out how this equipment can fail.

“With raw or manipulated data, an indicator for each failure mode is developed. We ask ourselves what failures would look like in the data we have, whether it be excess vibration or temperature, thresholds for each indicator are established, and their relative importance is weighted. In this way, we have both individual indicators and a means to aggregate data for visualization and analytics.”

Linking new data insights to the maintenance planning process culminates in automatic work-order generation on equipment condition, she added, which is how companies can use CBM for data-driven maintenance decisions.

“Imagine that this exists for every piece of critical equipment on your system, and any time a work order red lines, work orders are automatically sent to correct certain issues. This is the evidence that maintenance is needed, whether it be more or less often than preventative measures would suggest.”

Potential risk matters

Much of CBM’s value derives from controlling for potential risk, according to Graeme Marshman, chemical engineer at Spartan Control Ltd., but quantifying potential risk is difficult. Reducing asset downtime and increasing uptime, allocating resources through more efficient planning, increasing equipment reliability with lifetime, optimizing data-driven decisions and ESG-related intangibles all comprise improved “business-as-usual operations” through CBM.

“Let’s compare comparable benefits of CBM in the oil and gas industry. [Let’s say] an asset generates $3 million per day, and has a five-per-cent downtime for maintenance. If CBM is able to reduce the downtime by an additional 10 per cent, then that would equate to a potential increase in revenue of $5.5 million annually for that asset alone.”

A good example of where industry applies CBM right now is on integrity digs with respect to midstream firms, he said, with crews relying on data gathered through asset inspections used to model for predictive failures, which is key for scheduling digs.

“It is being used at a small scale, and the option to expand on that further in order to be able to encompass more of the assets that would drive more value. We’ve started with really small projects, and it’s really the full implementation and connecting of those different databases where we can learn more about assets to do better predictive maintenance.”

A competitive advantage

Many industries are increasingly accepting CBM is a competitive advantage, noted Gabrielle Vaillancourt, business analyst at TC Energy Corporation, and finding a way to combine databases is key to implementation.

“In the current economic environment, companies have to remain focused on operations and efficient operating methods if they want to remain competitive,” she told the industry experts. “When it comes to implementing CBM, start small and let the scope grow once you have a [dependable] understanding of your data.”