Squashing a Compressor Bug

At Southern Natural Gas, a natural gas transmission company, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, a recent Action Team successfully eliminated a recurring compressor automation problem.

The Picken’s Compressor station has the ability to move natural gas to both of the company’s North and South main systems by changing its pumping configuration. When the system was tasked with swinging gas from the East to South the system was erroneously unloading and eventually securing the station engines. This in turn created an adverse reaction at two other downstream compressor stations, causing after hour call-outs to all three locations. Unfortunately, this single event had been a problem for almost two years.

After attending a Manufacturing Game® workshop, the location superintendent, scheduling coordinator and engine analyst decided to list this defect as high priority. The location felt additional support was needed in order to eliminate the defect.

During a monthly RELY (acronym for the Reliability Team) visit, the team members collected the necessary information and discussed the possible remedy with technical services. The technical services department determined that a software bug was the probable culprit and a minor edit would correct the problem. The software change was sent to the location and the necessary edits were made. The defect was eliminated.

The cost-benefit calculation determined that a savings of $5,400 was realized by properly utilizing one man-hour worth of work.

Although the dollar amount alone may not appear significant, the team’s ability to step out of the box and take control has immeasurable affect. The enthusiasm has led to huge support for continuing on the “maintenance journey”, increasing both confidence and ownership throughout SNG’s pipeline system.. The realization that quality is free becomes more apparent each day.