Asset Management Key to Managing Growth of EQT Midstream Operation

April 2011 Vol. 238 No. 4

Darrell Williams, Project Manager, EQT Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA

To continue to improve service and maintain regulatory compliance, EQT successfully completed an overhaul of its maintenance and work management program involving pipeline assets to gain greater visibility of the work order process.

Instituting a regimented approach to classifying assets, data input and standardizing maintenance processes, the company can leverage accumulated data from new EAM tools in place to maximize workflow efficiency. This new system is helping the company absorb growth by collecting and analyzing data to perform preventive maintenance that’s both timely and cost-effective.

The boom in domestic natural gas production has led to significant expansion of EQT Corporation’s Midstream business segment asset base so that it can efficiently and reliably transport the increased volumes.

Growth for the Pittsburgh-based company is being fueled through new reserves brought online by its Production unit, as well as other production companies, from properties in the Appalachian Basin covering parts of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. EQT Midstream has kept pace with production volume by installing miles of new gathering and transmission lines and new compression facilities. In mid-2010, it started a comprehensive refinement of its maintenance management program to not only adjust for the expanding pipeline infrastructure but make more effective use of maintenance resources.

The gas business, like any asset-intensive industry, needs to manage escalating asset lifecycle costs by maximizing reliability and performance. Other key drivers are tighter regulatory controls calling for greater accountability and more detailed data capture and reporting.

A key focus was the standardization of how work is performed and how that work is recorded. Pumping drips to remove water from pipelines, inspecting valves, checking for leaks or servicing vehicles are all a part of an essential routine. They are just some of more than 20 types of work done in a typical day within EQT’s Midstream operation, stretched out over thousands of miles of pipe and growing.

EQT required a user-friendly method of electronically capturing daily work activities, and tying that work to the asset(s) being worked on. The effective implementation of a thoughtfully selected and designed EAM system could allow the company to more fairly and effectively analyze and report on all completed planned and unplanned work. The system would also allow anyone with access to quickly see a history of work completed in a specified period as well as a preventive maintenance schedule going forward.

Common database Instituting a uniform, structured format for documenting all equipment and work order data could allow EQT to introduce powerful enterprise asset management (EAM) tools to its operations. With all crucial information properly formatted in a common database, it would be possible to quickly generate actionable information for making the most efficient use of resources or create performance metrics as the basis for continuous operational improvement.

EQT called on integration specialists Cohesive Information Solutions of Kennesaw, GA to review business requirements its Midstream operations as well as manage the business process transformation and technology deployment. After a careful evaluation process, it was decided that Maximo would be the EAM engine for these applications.

Cohesive gathered all key stakeholders for the initial steps of compartmentalizing and documenting current business practices. This offered a fresh opportunity to see how business was currently conducted and look for improvement opportunities.

Many scenarios are taken into account to understand what and how much work was being performed in an eight-hour day and if it was the right amount. One example is how many hours per day are spent on actual hands on work (wrench time) vs. driving. Cohesive methodically identified the global parameters EQT envisioned for its work flow to maximize the amount of wrench time for the maintenance workers but also factored in quality and safety. Ensuring that personnel had the documentation, materials and knowledge to do their work, and coordinate schedules so the equipment is ready to work on when they got there, could translate into more efficient wrench time and fewer instances of unscheduled maintenance.

Domains for standardizing processes were developed that could be ported over to Maximo. Standard classifications were set up for assets and work types. Cohesive also helped integrate other enterprise systems into the EAM, including a new GIS (Geographical Information System) EQT had installed earlier to replace paper maps. Maximo and the GIS system comply with the ArcGIS Data Pipeline Model (APDM) specification for managing data, so mapping between one system to the other was straightforward.

Improvements From The Get-Go
Many of EQT’s assets are located in remote areas where access to Internet service is unavailable. EQT field technicians, through their laptop PCs, now access a GForms® user interface (from Global Information Systems, LLC) where work activities are captured in a disconnected state using custom screens which walk them through the reporting process, forcing consistent data input.

Work activity is recorded and synched up with Maximo periodically by each individual when there is a wireless connection. Cohesive and Global worked in unison to integrate Gforms and Maximo such that the requested data can seamlessly be transferred between the two software elements.

An immediate benefit of the EAM project was gaining a clear comparison of work being done from job to job. A typical labor hour for a drip-blowing activity in the northern districts can be compared to that same activity in our southern districts. In instances where there is hilly terrain and dense woods, or open farmland with easy access, you’d expect to see variations in the time it takes to perform similar work.

EQT’s new EAM system has created a foundation by which work can be evaluated equitably across the board without showing favoritism towards any one district or employee. With clean information logged consistently in the database, queries in the Maximo system provide all key information instantly.

It is also much easier to report the completion of regulatory activities on DOT regulated pipeline and assets. Pulling the information together from paper forms and spreadsheets was difficult and not necessarily timely when audited.

Analysis can be conducted based on type of asset, work orders, types of work being performed, employee, hours worked, location and more. It’s also valuable for identifying any missing data. Each department manager has complete knowledge of the materials, time and personnel involved with a work order, helping them track and manage all controllable costs.

Perhaps the greatest impact of automating EQT’s maintenance management is that it led to a culture change toward visibility of work. It’s simplified the ability to see work that’s being done across the whole company in a unified format. It allows the establishment of benchmarks for KPIs that can reflect trends showing visibility of the work as it is today. For example, if an improvement target of one benchmark is set at, say, 5% over 10 months, the progress for that target can be easily tracked.
Additionally, EQT mandates that the new system meets with an extremely high level of end-user acceptance. The field operations personnel are highly regarded at EQT, and an important metric of the success of the project will be the ease of which the system is utilized in the field. Gforms bridges the gap between the extraordinary and complex capabilities of Maximo with the simplicity of simple ease to complete Field Data Collection (FDC) forms of Gforms. EQT has made it a goal to continually work with field personnel to encourage their active participation in the EAM program.

EQT and Cohesive together developed reports and KPIs for measuring forward progress, but the power of the system has been impressive thus far. After the first two months from going live, a query taking only a couple of seconds showed 32,000 individual work orders completed during that time span. That wouldn’t have been possible before. Drilling down further on any one of those 32,000 work orders, we can see who did that work, on what asset it was done and what day it was completed. That kind of visibility is the one of the biggest improvements in understanding what work we do, and also where we are spending most of our time.

That information is available through Cognos dynamic reporting software (also from IBM) which is used for translating all of the asset and performance data into business intelligence. Reports can be customized to display analytics from the district level, down to the department level, down to the employee level at the click of a button, helping to quickly identify outliers of data.

The economic value of the EAM project is yet to be determined but practical value is clear. EQT is a growing company. As it keeps growing its assets base, there has to be adequate head count for maintenance to keep gas flowing without unplanned downtime. Improved work processes and management tools put the company in a position to get the most efficiency from operations while maintaining the right balance of personnel. The ability to identify and measure all critical work needing to get done and being able to match that information with the appropriate number of workers per mile of pipeline will be invaluable. By keeping the proper balance, EQT’s people won’t necessarily have to work harder, but it can identify ways for them to work smarter toward cost-effective, reliable performance.

Darrell B. Williams
is Sr. Engineer with EQT Midstream-Planning. Darrell has over 28 years’ experience in gas operations, engineering, and project development, including 14 years in alternative energy development. Darrell holds a B.S.-Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering from Penn State, and a M.S.- Finance from Robert Morris University. Darrell lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Donna, and two sons, Justin, and Trevor.