Equinor is one of the most exciting and innovative companies to work for in the Oil and Gas industry. As it has grown, its culture and working practices have also evolved. Passion, openness, partnership and persistence are all core parts of its DNA. Claus Stefan Koch, Equinor’s Project Leader, Operation & Maintenance, believes that Equinor’s relative infancy is also its key strength. “As a younger company it can be easier to change your business goals, be more nimble and agile. We are not just an operator, but review and develop the way we do things; we see ourselves as a technology provider to the industry.”
Based in Norway and Denmark, Equinor’s downstream operation has a culture that epitomises the main qualities of Scandinavians: egalitarian, tolerant, practical, progressive and modest. Its people are the heartbeat of its operations; committed to keeping its production facilities operating efficiently and consistently 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However one major stumbling block to achieving greater plant regularity is the efficient preparation and execution of turnarounds, periodically recurring projects that are required to clean, inspect and overhaul the assets in a timeframe of a several weeks.
Claus clarifies “Like any other business, we try to achieve optimisation in keeping costs down. The expense of turnarounds is one thing – the production loss is even more substantial. Long durations affect our value chain, impacting our overall business.” T.A. Cook Senior Manager, David Fleming, adds that with daily production loss at sites as high as €40 million per day, it’s crucial to achieve faster and more efficient turnarounds.
Devising a masterplan
When Equinor initiated its latest turnaround excellence project it chose to partner with T.A. Cook based on its previous experience of working together. “We’ve been working with T.A. Cook on other improvement projects, and we knew they had ideas and knowledge in this area”, explains Claus. “They know us, how our people work and our business “.
Strong advocates of the five lean principles of value, value streaming, flow, pull and perfection, Equinor as an organisation is accustomed to change, pulling resources together on sites in order to continually improve. However this project was the first to be executed by a team that comprised of members from all six downstream production facilities. This was necessary to achieve maximum buy-in but came with the challenge to coordinate project activities with people who were in locations multiple flight hours apart.
Key objectives of the project were to develop and implement standardized turnaround best practices, tools and methods, setting up Equinor to deliver effective turnarounds in the future that would maintain their competitiveness with regards to their peers. Above all, it was clear the journey was going to be a cultural one requiring all employees to come on board with the new working practices. Unity replaced individualism, standardisation replaced differences and best practice replaced mediocrity. To achieve this, the six sites had to come together as one.
T.A. Cook’s approach comprised 11 key elements where best practice principles were to be incorporated, including Turnaround process, health and safety, planning and scheduling, quality, organisation and scope. David adds: “Our experience highlights that all key elements of the preparation process are intertwined. For example, you can’t set up an effective organisation without clear project objectives; you can’t plan jobs or create contracts without knowing the scope of work.” By focusing on improvement of all aspects at the same time Equinor and T.A. Cook were able to deliver a far more cohesive solution. Working groups for each of the elements were formed with representatives from multiple sites in each group. It was also crucial to the project’s success that different levels of site experience, varied opinions, as well as group and site alignment were incorporated. T.A. Cook co-ordinated all activities, ensuring the recommended new practices were aligned.
Implementing the change
Over eight months T.A. Cook visited the sites to carry out training and provide support. David explains: “If we were going to be successful, we had to ensure individual sites and their people accepted the recommendations. We rolled up our sleeves and worked closely with them on-site.” T.A. Cook Consultant Michael Hillergren says that in order to do this his team had to change the mindset of workers to be more proactive and plan ahead. “People don’t always understand why change is required and sometimes see it as an impact on their job. They are afraid it has a consequence on their role within the organization”, explains Micael. “But we had witnessed the problems they had experienced or had complained about, and built them into the recommended solutions, making their lives less stressful, and the willingness to change more straight forward. They became the controllers, not the workers. People could see the rationale in that and the possibility for development.“ T.A. Cook Senior Consultant, Alexander Schwarz, says that “one of the biggest hurdles was getting people to talk to each other. “When people understand where you’re coming from and how you work, they’re more likely to want to take on board what you suggest. And if you show them how this will make their lives easier then the buy-in is easier. It’s hard to tell people that what they’re doing is not best practice. You have to truly show the benefits.”
Continuing the journey
Equinor’s turnaround transformation journey is still ongoing. Long term implementation plans that reflect the maturity and requirements of each site have been agreed and local champions will continue to drive the change. A review program was defined and implemented to provide greater sustainability. Everybody involved is aware that only sustainable change will deliver the long term objective to gain a greater competitive advantage and deliver faster and more efficient turnarounds at Equinor in the future.