How to cut refinery calibration time and hard costs in half – securely.

A collaborative innovation with BP maintains security and quality assurance while improving calibration.

BP onsite hours were reduced to the time that team had to pull together tools and check them out each day. Which took required hours from 62 hours to 3 total hours.

Sending tools off-site for calibration creates downtime. Bringing third party calibration technicians on-site creates security and liability issues and increases project time and cost.

Multidisciplined calibration technicians set up a pop-up temporary lab, combined with mobile labs and digital tracking of assets with proprietary software.

All calibrations are performed to specs in half the time of previous methods. Personnel are freed from escorting calibration team into secure areas. Instant digital remote access to tool location and calibration status.

With the big problem solved, a consistent process can be standardized, easily refined and repeated.

Refineries pose a certain amount of limitations when it comes to calibration work. Historically, there have been two options: 1) send in their tooling to an accredited offsite lab and wait 1-4 weeks where they would be without their tools, or 2) invite a company to do the calibrations onsite which created a different set of logistical issues (including insurance, MSAs, specific training requirements and site level implementation planning.) After using both options in the past, Eric Hixon, the Instruments and Electronics (I&E) Shop Specialist at BP Cherry Point Refinery in Blaine, Washington came to Alltite asking for a different onsite solution for their 2020 calibrations.

“I was completely tied to the contractor for two weeks”

ALLTITE’s typical mobile laboratory could do 85% of the I&E Department’s instruments. The challenge was how to make it 100%.

Hixon was familiar with the onsite calibration option as they worked with a different onsite vendor in 2019. Previously, they worked through the process of a Master Service Agreement, specialty onsite insurance, allowing time onsite to do a safety presentation, as well as the mandated OSHA 10 hour. In addition to this, an I&E Shop Specialist was always required to escort the calibration contractor during their two-week duration onsite.

While this level of preventative measures and safety backups are critical for many vendors arriving onsite to a refinery, the nature of calibrations themselves (as a testing service) did not fit the nature of the service contract language, insurance required or the additional safety courses for their calibration personnel.

Ed Lambe, I&E Shop Specialist at BP Cherry Point Refinery, was specifically concerned with the time required to escort the calibration contractor through the facility. “I was completely tied to the contractor for 2 weeks, although I could bring my computer and work from the designated space, I was out-of pocket for any other work. I am not sure how much that cost the company, but my time could have been used for more productive work.”

“What we needed was a program that was less intrusive, it was important that we took all the necessary precautions; but didn’t take away from our operational workflow.”

ALLTITE has temperature-controlled field calibration labs A2LA accredited to ISO 17025. mobile vans that can deploy anywhere in the continental United States. However, only 85% of the items requiring calibration from the I&E department were able to be completed from these vehicles. Not all instrumentation may be calibrated in the field due to the equipment and environment required to accurately make the measurement. However the field laboratories are able to calibrate many styles of hydraulic pressure gauges (ranging from 300 to 10,000psi), 4.5 digital multimeters, insulation resistance testers up to 1kV, and clamp-on ammeters (current clamp.) However, additional items like: Oscilloscopes, 10kV resistance testers, 6.5 digit multimeters, process meters, loop calibrators, and pressure calibrators needed to be completed, a more in-depth plan needed to be implemented.

Deployment of 3 technicians to BP Cherry Point’s calibration event was 15% less hard cost than previous calibration jobs.

“What we needed was a program that was less intrusive, it was important that we took all the necessary precautions; but didn’t take away from our operational workflow.”

“The concept was a pop-up laboratory with three multi-disciplined calibration technicians.” said ALLTITE QA Manager, Greg Dunsmoor, who crafted an offsite temporary laboratory that could be climate controlled for an interim timeframe and would be used in tandem with two mobile laboratories in order to ensure timely execution of the job.

ALLTITE® has a fleet of temperature controlled field calibration labs A2LA accredited to ISO 17025, deployable anywhere in the continental United States.

Each day, one technician would run 50-75 tools to the external BP Cherry Point loading dock (which did not require the same safety permissions) and would exchange newly calibrated items as well as pick up the next batch of items needing calibration. While onsite, the QA manager created a plan for workflow and instrument optimization.

At 3.5 minutes of data entry per calibrated item, overall, there is 14 hours of refinery personnel savings of data entry for the 2020 job.

By batching the types of tooling together, ALLTITE technicians were able to set-up an assembly-line style process with a specific tool type, this streamlined calibration and condensed typical timeframes by 5%-35% depending on the type of tool. The result was the completion of ~238 I&E tools in four days, which was a little less than half the time the previous vendor had taken during the BP Cherry Point onsite visit.

Allowing a contractor to take assets from a refinery can seem like a loss of control for a QA/QC minded Shop Manager. To remedy this concern, ALLTITE technicians entered all calibration data into their proprietary software program, TorqueWare™, and updated the calibration data and certificates in real time. “In years past, I was in the same room as the technician,” Lambe said, “so I had a great handle on where the calibrations were. Because ALLTITE was offsite, knowing TorqueWare was available to identify the progress alleviating any concern.”

While this is not the first time ALLTITE had worked with a refinery to do calibrations, this was the first time this specific solution had been implemented. “Overall, it was a very different solution” Hixon said, “we hope to have the same consistent implementation by ALLTITE during our calibrations in 2021.”