A maintenance audit of the Valdez Marine Terminal commissioned by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council gives credit to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s maintenance workers but faults the pipeline company’s maintenance management system.
Alyeska operates the Valdez Marine Terminal at the southern terminus of the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The report, by Hisey and Associates of Bellingham, Wash, described Alyeska’s maintenance management as an overly complex system that is frustrating for the company’s workers. Hisey also said Alyeska may not be adequately addressing a backlog of maintenance at the terminal.
Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan said the company is committed to continuous improvement of its maintenance.
“We welcome input that aids our improvement from numerous internal and external sources,” Egan said. “We cooperated fully with the RCAC audit, and provided the consultant with relevant documents and access.”
The report said Alyeska’s maintenance personnel are knowledgeable, dedicated and experienced. We rely on them every day to maintain our systems and help move oil safely.
Hisey was to present the report to the advisory council’s board at a meeting in Soldotna Sept. 15. The council, formed after the 1989 Prince William Sound oil spill, is an independent citizen group formed to oversee Alyeska’s terminal operations and tanker operations in Prince William Sound. It was organized under the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 along with the similar citizens’ council for Cook Inlet.
Many of Hisey’s conclusions track an internal maintenance audit by Alyeska done in 2010, according to the report given the council’s board.
“Although no maintenance rose to the level of ‘imminent threat,’ Alyeska is struggling with overlying complex processes and poorly integrated IT (Information Technology) systems which are adversely affecting their ability to effectively apply reliability centered maintenance,” (RCM) protocols, a maintenance management system used by Alyeska, the report said.
In 2001 Alyeska agreed to use the RCM protocol on eight critical systems at the terminal, including detection systems for oil leaks, fire, combustible gas and hazardous gas.
Some conclusions by Hisey including findings that the existing management systems do not adequately capture data that would determine maintenance trends or allow maintenance strategies to be developed, and that senior executives of Alyeska are not adequately informed on risks.
A significant finding is that the existing system shows an accumulation of maintenance backlog that may not be adequately addressed by Alyeska with existing resources. Records indicate about a 2 1/2-year backlog of maintenance given the amount of time terminal workers are able to devote to tasks, Hisey said.
Terminal maintenance workers were given good marks, however.
“The auditors (Hisey) found the individual employees to be knowledgeable about what it takes to operate and maintain Valdez Marine Terminal assets, although not necessarily guided or assisted by established maintenance strategies or processes. Alyeska workers are forced to rely on their personal knowledge of the assets and their casual network of co-workers to find information they need to do their job,” the Hisey report said.
The report said Alyeska depends on a very few key individuals to retain enough knowledge of the performance management systems and processes. Alyeska’s various information technology systems do not effectively integrate maintenance data.
“This makes it extremely difficult for workers or management to have a clear understanding of the results or status of their maintenance programs and the condition of the equipment,” Hisey said in the report. “Many people interviewed seemed to know where they thought information and data should be stored, but often referred to someone else for being responsible for entering data and knowing how to access it. In numerous cases the consultants followed a ‘name trail’ given by several people of someone else to talk to, only to find that at the end of the trail, that person did not have the answer or know how to retrieve the data.”
Hisey said the maintenance work is getting done and gave the credit to Alyeska’s employees.
“When processes and procedures become too complex or overly prescriptive, employees simply create ‘workarounds’ to manage the work they know needs to get done. Additionally, ad hoc systems are created to work outside of established processes,” the report said.
An example was cited of an infrared monitoring program of switchgear and breakers being managed through a process outside of the normal procedure.