Targeting the best returns

COMPANIES must look for new ways to stay competitive and profitable and find ways to make “dead money” work, in a market with volatile, low energy prices which are widely believed to be the new normal under the “lower for even longer” scenario.

Haydn Black

That dead cash is, in most cases, sitting within capital construction projects and operations, where outdated standards and status-quo processes have resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in “dead money” that can be recovered and saved or put to better use.

At IHS CERAWeek 2016, New York-based Emerson has announced Top Quartile Performance, a commitment to partner with energy industry executives to help them achieve operations and capital performance in the top 25% of their peers, while continuing to drive benchmark performance expectations higher.

The firm says it has built its business in helping forward-looking operators achieve top quartile performance by finding sources of dead money in both new projects and existing operations, then applying advanced automation technologies and innovative business processes to realise cost savings and competitive advantages.

Research from Solomon Associates and Independent Project Analysis Inc demonstrates the staggering differences between those in the top 25% of performance in areas such as project performance, reliability and energy efficiency. For example:

The cost of a typical $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) scope project is more than $1.6 billion for operators in the fourth quartile of project performance, while top quartile performers will complete the same scope for $750 million.

Maintenance costs are more than tripled for fourth-quartile performers in reliability, and they also see both fuel costs and emissions that are double those of those in the top 25%.

“The energy industry has reached a crisis in terms of capital, operational and financial performance, and efforts to simply tweak traditional approaches and ‘run lean’ aren’t delivering results in the current business environment,” Emerson executive chairman David Farr said.

“Emerson partners with industry leaders to look beyond outdated standards and deliver the radical improvements needed to get the most out of every capital investment. Focusing on Top Quartile Performance strategies will help executives across the globe achieve better return on assets and deliver shareholder value.”

Based on the Solomon, IPA and other research and data, Emerson estimates that process industries could save upwards of $50 billion in wasted maintenance costs alone, plus more than $10 billion in energy costs, even at today’s prices.

At the same time, the industry is wasting staggering sums – an estimated $430 billion – in poorly executed capital projects.

Emerson’s Top Quartile Performance initiative comes at a time when automation technology, real-time diagnostics and the so-called ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ are all advancing at a pace that renders decades-old project and operational practices obsolete.

While best practices are often touted as the solution to poor performance, it is time for transformational thinking and action, Farr said.

He said Emerson experts will work with customers to take full advantage of advanced new tools to plan new projects for top quartile performance, minimising the likelihood of cost overruns or schedule delays.

To maximise the performance of existing operations, Emerson works with customers to engineer and deploy robust automation technologies to improve their real-time insight into process performance and equipment health.

Data from these devices is connected via plant networks or the Industrial Internet of Things to provide real-time diagnostics on plant performance, empowering customers to detect inefficiencies, maximise safety, identify and fix potential problems before they result in costly unplanned downtime, and predict future operational needs.

“Companies need more than innovative technology, they need experience and a fresh perspective on the tough challenges they’re facing,” Emerson Process Management president Steven Sonnenberg said.

“Emerson partners with companies not only to deliver the right technology solutions, but also to help them adopt best operational practices to get the most out of every aspect of plant construction and operation. Companies must focus on both sides of that equation to truly realise their full potential and reach Top Quartile Performance.”

To support its initiative Emerson is launching an online resource for industry leaders to learn more about the technologies, process improvements and specific focus areas that can lead to streamlined operations and increased flexibility to adjust to shifting market demands.