• Performance Benchmarking Eliminates Chronic Coalescer Vessel Failures



A major chemical manufacturing facility was experiencing chronic failures of a coalescer pressure vessel; more specifically, it experienced 116 failures in 2011-2012 and cost the company $300,000 in maintenance to replace constantly plugging filter elements. Additionally, a poor mean time between failure (MTBF) of three to five days for 10 years since the original installation had cost the company millions in maintenance costs and production losses.


The company decided to implement asset-level benchmarking through Asset Answers, a  benchmarking capability found within GE Digital’s Machine & Equipment Health solution, part of the Asset Performance Management (APM) suite. Asset Answers provides instant benchmarking of the company’s physical asset performance against that of global industry peers, and also internally, asset to asset and site to site. The tools and KPIs available empower users to clean, filter, and interpret performance data to systematically diagnose and isolate underperforming assets. 

The company started by comparing its operational experience against other chemical companies and learned the following:

  • It experienced two times as many failures as its peers, with a MTBF of 93 months for all types of assets
  • If MTBF could be increased to a peer average of 220 months, the reduction in failures could save about $51 million ($26 million/year) in maintenance costs alone
  • Analyzing the asset performance by equipment taxonomy—the equipment level of “vessel” in fixed equipment category has the maximum opportunity for cost savings
  • Its vessels fail almost six times more often than industry peers, with a MTBF of 18 months
  • Reducing failures and increasing an MTBF of vessels of peer value of 113 months could save $11 million ($6 million/year)
  • Adding more detail to the equipment taxonomy, of the type “Pressurized Vessels,” showed a MTBF of two months compared to a peer MTBF of 13 months, an opportunity to save $4 million ($2 million/year)



After seeing these opportunities, the company undertook a root cause analysis (RCA) using the PROACT (Preserve, Order, Analyze, Communicate, and Track) methodology. It identified the main reason behind these frequent filter plugs as the accumulation of emulsion on the filter surface. Once fully understood, a high pressure backwash system was installed to remove the residue left on the filter after the coalescence operation. 

Asset Answers was able to automatically calculate that the company spent an average of $20,000 per month on maintenance and $32,000 per month in lost production. After installing the filter backwash system, the predicted maintenance costs was estimated to go down to $500 per month, with no production losses. With an investment of $200,000, the company eliminated chronic pressure vessel failures, and increased availability that saved $250,000 per year in maintenance costs, and another $400,000 per year in production losses.

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