Alyeska Pipeline – Valdez, AK

Alyeska Pipeline was experiencing problems with their metering valves, causing a significant delay in the time it takes to load crude oil on tankers for delivery to the U.S. An action team was launched to take on the task of identifying and eliminating the defect.

At the Valdez Marine terminal, their mission is to safely and efficiently load 25% of the U.S. domestic supply of crude oil on tankers. To measure the quantity loaded on each vessel, the crude is directed through a series of meters, which are controlled by 68 electrically monitored EIM brand valve operators. When a valve fails to function properly, it directly impacts their loading plan. If it cannot be cleared within a few minutes, they will remove the meter run from the loading plan, and use only the remaining meters, which can result in a loading delay of 17,000 barrels/hr.

The team assigned to the job extracted information from their maintenance records including: the number of work orders, the component at fault, and the lead-times to get the meter run back in service. Their analysis pointed to the reliability of their 20 year old EIM valve actuators that were no longer in production. By focusing on the efficiency with which they repaired these valves, they discovered they were often “rolling the dice” in the storeroom, hoping they would have the right spare parts available each time they needed to repair a metering valve.

To solve this problem, they identified what parts and quantities were needed to maintain the existing valves effectively and efficiently, stocking only those parts that were cost and labor effective. The parts they didn’t put in stock were those that were more expensive and labor intensive than the cost to install a new series EIM actuator. Leveraging their information systems, they then generated a Bill of Materials (BOM) for metering valve repairs and had it pre-approved by engineering. This pre-approval process has eliminated countless wasted hours seeking engineering approval for “routine repairs.” Historically, breakdowns could last up to 6 weeks. With these changes, downtime on actuators has been reduced to 2 days maximum. In addition, many man-hours have been saved due to a reduction in time spent “chasing parts and authorizations.” The team’s success is being shared across the organization and will likely lead to significant improvements in other areas.