Idemitsu Aichi Refinery, Machinery Section
Better to Prevent a Problem
Than to Solve One
Refining crude oil involves the synchronization of many operations at various onsite facilities. If any one of these facilities breaks down, it can affect the entire refinery. Thus, facilities management is critical. The goal is to prevent problems from occurring, which requires accurate machine-life evaluations. Additionally, the maintenance team continually monitors and services all machinery to facilitate smooth, uninterrupted operation. When a problem does arise, the team responds quickly, implementing a solution and accumulating additional knowledge. Looking to the future, we anticipate that our refineries will operate at full capacity for years to come.
“The key is to identify any divergence from the ideal equipment conditions,” reveals Wataru Nakajima, leader of the facilities-management team at the Aichi Refinery. Covering an area the equivalent of 43 baseball fields, the refinery has a number of large-scale facilities, and it is the responsibility of Wataru to manage, maintain, and maximize their operation. As a Maintenance Engineer, he must also make critical equipment-life evaluations. It is this combination of evaluation and maintenance that supports the refinery’s long-term viability.
Problems Are Inevitable
Even in the most well-run refinery, problems will arise. Some are predictable, such as those involving machinery and moving parts. Others seem to come out of nowhere and might be related to hardware, software, or even human error. Regardless of the cause or whether or not the problem was anticipated, it must be resolved quickly. Otherwise, the entire refinery could be affected. Moreover, some equipment takes months to restart once it’s off line. Wataru works tirelessly to prevent such problems, but if they do occur, he responds quickly, identifying the cause and implementing a quick and efficacious solution.
Never Stop Learning
Two years ago, Wataru was involved in the building of a wastewater treatment facility that was needed to handle increasing demand. He threw himself into every aspect of the project, gaining experience and expanding both his knowledge and skill set. “We started with an empty lot, so when the huge facilities began operating it was wonderful to see.” It is this relentless desire to learn that makes him so good at his job. Every four years, the refinery goes offline for large-scale maintenance, and Wataru takes great satisfaction in systematically updating the facilities. It also gives him another opportunity to learn.
When Wataru became a Maintenance Engineer, equipment-life predictions were less sophisticated, and he often resorted to trial and error when addressing unexpected problems. Today, he is adamant about the importance of accurate equipment evaluation. “I want to develop a new equipment-life prediction system,” he declares, “so that the engineers that come after me don’t have to face the same struggles.” Sentiments such as these have earned him the respect of his younger colleagues. They know he will do all he can to ensure an optimal work environment and a steady supply of energy for customers.